CNN talks to executive producer Carie Lemack about “Killing in the Name,” a documentary about Islamic terrorism.
The Oscar ceremony is held in Kodak Theatre in Hollywood tonight Feb 27, 2011 at 6 pm.
Not at all, serious problems require equally serious solutions. The call for evaluation of the First Amendment may be seen as an attempt to curb Islam or other militant cults. The truth is: it is. It is truly a matter of survival of the United Statesand the free world.
William J. Bennett CNN Contributer
After witnessing a vacuum of leadership and an apparent fecklessness in dealing with crises abroad during Jimmy Carter’s administration, some concluded the presidency was too big for one man. It took President Reagan’s leadership and rhetoric to rid the popular mind of that notion. Today, a stagnating economy and tumult from the Middle East to Africa is making us again question our idea of the job of president. There is, of course, one person who can restore our faith in the presidency: the president. But as one looks at the major events unfolding abroad right now, it is hard to conclude that he will do that. Or that he can. In Egypt last month, the U.S. administration sent confusing messages both to the government and the protesters in the streets. One day, we were standing with Hosni Mubarak, the next with the protesters in the street. And then, the next, we were saying positive things about the Muslim Brotherhood. And then we were correcting that. As commentator Niall Ferguson concluded from our actions and statements there, “Tragically, no one knows where Barack Obama’s map of the Middle East is.”
Our administration finally found a clear voice on Egypt, and the message from the president was to stand with those who demanded Mubarak’s ouster, that they were a “moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice.” He compared them to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. Nobody knows whether the arc of history will bend toward justice there, and right now we should have great concern, especially as the Muslim Brotherhood is flexing its muscles and windpipes.
In Egypt, as with other places boiling with protest and possible internal regime replacement, the outcomes are just not certain: Things very well may get better, that arc may bend, but it is anything but guaranteed. As historian Benny Morris put it recently, “When the dust settles, which it will, in a month or two or three’s time, one will see that Western — and Israeli — interests in the Middle East will have been substantially undermined and anti-Western — and anti-Israeli — interests substantially bolstered.
“Similarly, one will see that the regimes which are, by nature and tradition very brutal, such as Iran’s, Syria’s and possibly Libya’s, will weather the storm, whereas those which are softer, more inclined to measures of liberalization, partly because of attentiveness to messages from Washington, will either have fallen or will have given ground, and a large measure of power, to anti-Western, often Islamist, elements within each country.” But Morris and those who think Libya will continue on with Moammar Gadhafi as its leader will remain correct only if the United States continues in its muddled message. It has taken the president several days to say something about the brutality in Libya, and now, having spoken, his words are left wanting.
He was more forceful (when he was forceful) in his support for the protesters in Egypt, who rose up against an ally of ours, than he has been on behalf of the protesters in Libya, who face far more brutality from a dictator who has never been a friend of ours and has, for years, been an international outlaw and supporter of terrorism. Don’t just take my word for it; listen to the words of a representative protester speaking to Anderson Cooper after President Obama finally did break his silence on Libya:
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The Libyan public are angry from the statement was given by President Obama today. Everybody was disappointed.
COOPER: You feel he didn’t go for enough?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No. … It’s nonsense. I thought that he’s going to give even threats or warning for this to stop. I expected more, to be honest. I expected to read between the lines from his speech. I did not see that. I was very disappointed, not me alone. Everybody was disappointed. We want America to support us.
If this sounds at all familiar, it is because it recalls our administration’s pathetic response to the brutality (and hopes on the street) in Iran in 2009, where democratic aspirants there literally asked, “Where’s Obama?”And while we simply cannot know what will come of Egypt, we do know whatever could come next in Libya — or, for that matter, Iran — could not be worse. Yet we do not clearly stand with the reformers. Our foreign policy is lost at sea because it is without direction. Or, perhaps even worse: because there is no map.
Col. Oliver North – February 25, 2011
The Obama administration, with its history of “slow rolling” counter-narcotics assistance to Mexico and doing next to nothing to protect our borders, is now confronted now by news that a Saudi national has been apprehended in Texas with plans to attack sensitive U.S. infrastructure.
GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States is quietly lobbying to establish a United Nations special investigator on human rights abuses in Iran, for the first time in a decade, diplomats and activists said Thursday.
OREN KESSLER – February 25, 2010
The White House’s ability to calm the turmoil in Bahrain will be key to stabilizing the Persian Gulf and checking Tehran’s influence.
Wall Street Journal – Farnaz Fassihi
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, along with their wives, have been under strict house arrest for more than a week, effectively confining them without a judicial process or the public backlash that a trial might generate. Intelligence agents, working under a ministry directly supervised by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have taken over security for Messrs. Mousavi and Karroubi, according to Mr. Karroubi’s family. They have entered Mr. Karroubi’s house and locked him and his wife in two separate rooms, according to a statement by their children. The agents provide and prepare both leaders’ meals, the statement said, raising concerns that the leaders could be poisoned. In the past few days, conservative government news agencies have called for a clerical court to prosecute Mr. Karroubi for treason, a charge that carries the death penalty, and to defrock him, a symbolic punishment for clergy in Iran. The opposition has said it is calling the Tuesday protests partly to oppose the treatment of the leaders and demand an end to their house arrest, and also to bring attention to a string demands ranging from freeing political prisoners to free elections. The U.S. stepped up its pressure on Iran’s human-rights record on Wednesday, sanctioning two senior officials responsible for the post-election crackdowns in 2009 and 2010. The U.S. State Department said it will block assets in and prevent travel to the U.S. for Tehran’s prosecutor general, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, and the commander of Iran’s Basij paramilitary force, Mohammed Reza Naqdi. “The steady deterioration in human-rights conditions in Iran has obliged the international community to speak out time and again,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.
FLYNT AND HILLARY MANN LEVERETT – FEBRUARY 23, 2011
Fast-forward to the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration as president of the United States, in January 2009. As a result of the Iraq war, the collapse of the Arab-Israeli peace process, and some fairly astute diplomacy by Iran and its regional allies, the balance of influence and power across the Middle East had shifted significantly against the United States. Scenarios for “weaning” Syria away from Iran were becoming ever more fanciful as relations between Damascus and Tehran became increasingly strategic in quality. Turkey, under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), was charting a genuinely independent foreign policy, including strategically consequential partnerships with Iran and Syria. Hamas and Hezbollah, legitimated by electoral successes, had emerged as decisively important political actors in Palestine and Lebanon.
It was looking progressively less likely that post-Saddam Iraq would be a meaningful strategic asset for Washington and ever more likely that Baghdad’s most important relationships would be with Iran, Syria, and Turkey. And, increasingly, U.S. allies like Oman and Qatar were aligning themselves with the Islamic Republic and other members of the Middle East’s “resistance bloc” on high-profile issues in the Arab-Israeli arena — as when the Qatari emir flew to Beirut a week after the 2006 Lebanon war to pledge massive reconstruction assistance to Hezbollah strongholds in the south and publicly defended Hezbollah’s retention of its military capabilities.
On Obama’s watch, the regional balance of influence and power has shifted even further away from the United States and toward Iran and its allies. The Islamic Republic has continued to deepen its alliances with Syria and Turkey and expand its influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Public opinion polls, for example, continue to show that the key leaders in the Middle East’s resistance bloc — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon’s Hassan Nasrallah, Hamas’s Khaled Mishaal, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — are all vastly more popular across the region than their counterparts in closely U.S.-aligned and supported regimes in Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Saudi Arabia.
And, now, the Obama administration stands by helplessly as new openings for Tehran to reset the regional balance in its favor emerge in Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and perhaps elsewhere. If these “pro-American” Arab political orders currently being challenged or upended by significant protest movements become at all more representative of their populations, they will no doubt become less enthusiastic about strategic cooperation with the United States. And, if these “pro-American” regimes are not replaced by salafi-dominated Islamist orders, the Arab governments that emerge from the present turmoil are likely to be at least somewhat receptive to Iran’s message of “resistance” and independence from Israel and the West.
Certainly, any government in Cairo that is even mildly more representative than Hosni Mubarak’s regime will not be willing to keep collaborating with Israel to enforce the siege of Gaza or to continue participating in the CIA’s rendition program to bring Egyptians back to Egypt to be tortured. Likewise, any political order in Bahrain that respected the reality of that country’s Shiite-majority population would be firmly opposed to the use of its territory as a platform for U.S. military action against Iranian interests.
Over the next year, all these developments will shift the regional balance even more against the United States and in favor of Iran. If Jordan — a loyal U.S. client state — were to come into play during this period, that would tilt things even further in Iran’s direction.
Against this, Soros, other American elites, the media, and the Obama administration all assert that the wave of popular unrest that is taking down one U.S. ally in the Middle East after another will now bring down the Islamic Republic — and perhaps the Assad government in Syria, too. This is truly a triumph of wishful thinking over thoughtful analysis.
Many of these same actors, of course, worked themselves up into quite a frenzy after the Islamic Republic’s June 2009 presidential election. For months, we were subjected to utterly unsubstantiated claims that the election had been stolen and that the Green Movement would sweep aside the Iranian “regime.” Like Soros today, many pundits who predicted the Islamic Republic’s demise in 2009 or 2010 put various time frames on their predictions — all of which, to the best of our knowledge, have passed without the Iranian system imploding. (But don’t worry about the devastating impact of such egregious malpractice on the careers of those who proved themselves so manifestly incompetent at Iran analysis. In today’s accountability-free America, every one of the Iran “experts” who were so wrong about the Green Movement in 2009 and 2010 is back at it again.)
From literally the day after Iran’s 2009 presidential election, we pointed out that the Green Movement could not succeed in bringing down the Islamic Republic, for two basic reasons: The movement did not represent anything close to a majority of Iranian society, and a majority of Iranians still support the idea of an Islamic Republic. Two additional factors are in play today, which make it even less likely that those who organized and participated in scattered demonstrations in Iran over the past week will be able to catalyze “regime change” there.
First, what is left of the Green Movement represents an even smaller portion of Iranian society than it did during the summer and fall of 2009. The failures of defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to convincingly document their assertions of electoral fraud and the Green Movement’s pivotal role in the West’s progressive demonization of the Islamic Republic since June 2009 have not played well with most Iranians inside Iran. That’s why, for example, former President Mohammad Khatami has quietly distanced himself from what is left of the Green Movement — as has every reformist politician who wants to have a political future in the Islamic Republic. As a result of these highly consequential miscalculations by the opposition’s ostensible leaders, those who want to try again to organize a mass movement against the Islamic Republic have a much smaller pool of troops that they might potentially be able to mobilize. This is not a winning hand, even in an era of Facebook and Twitter.
Second, the effort to restart protests in Iran is taking place at a moment of real strategic opportunity for Tehran in the Middle East. The regional balance is shifting, in potentially decisive ways, in favor of the Islamic Republic and against its American adversary. In this context, for Mousavi and Karroubi to call their supporters into the streets on Feb. 14 — just three days after the Obama administration had started issuing its own exhortations for Iranians to revolt against their government and as Obama and his national security team reeled from the loss of Mubarak, America’s longtime ally in Egypt — was an extraordinary blunder.
The Iranian people are not likely to recognize as their political champions those whom they increasingly perceive as working against the national interest. Two of Ahmadinejad’s most prominent conservative opponents — former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former Revolutionary Guard commander and presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai — have publicly and severely criticized Mousavi and Karroubi over their recent actions and statements. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, another Ahmadinejad opponent, told his colleagues last week, “The parliament condemns the Zionists, American, anti-revolutionary, and anti-national action of the misled seditionists,” accusing the two Green Movement leaders of falling into “the orchestrated trap of America.”
U.S. attempts to intervene in the Islamic Republic’s internal politics are typically maladroit and often backfire. But the Obama administration’s performance is setting new standards in this regard. Among other consequences, the administration’s latest initiative to stir up unrest in Iran will put what is left of the reform camp in Iranian politics at an even bigger disadvantage heading into parliamentary elections next year and the Islamic Republic’s next presidential election in 2013, because reformists are now in danger of being associated with an increasingly marginalized and discredited opposition movement that is, effectively, doing America’s bidding.
At a more strategic level, the Obama administration’s post-Ben Ali, post-Mubarak approach to Iran is putting important U.S. interests in serious jeopardy. It is putting at risk, first of all, the possibility of dealing constructively with an increasingly influential Islamic Republic in Iran. More broadly, at precisely the time when the United States needs to figure out how to deal with legitimate, genuinely independent Islamist movements and political orders, which are the most likely replacements for “pro-American” autocracies across the Middle East, the Obama administration’s approach to Iran is taking U.S. policy in exactly the opposition direction.The United States faces serious challenges in the Middle East. Its strategic position in this vital part of the world is eroding before our eyes. Indulging in fantasies about regime change in Iran will only make the situation worse.
The Iranian authorities remain fearful of the power of student movements. That’s the conclusion of youth activists who point to the increasing pressures they face in their efforts to bring down the current regime.
Activists said more than 650 students have been arrested since the opposition staged sizeable street protests on February 14. That figure could not be independently confirmed, but activists say the arrests indicate that the regime remains wary. Two students were reportedly killed by security forces on February 14 and many more were detained before being released.That protest – the first mass opposition demonstration in Iran in over a year — was followed by another day of rallies on February 20 in Tehran and other cities. In the course of those rallies, a third student, Hamed Nour-Mohammadi, was reportedly killed by security forces in the southwestern city of Shiraz. Since then, students say, the arrests have continued.
‘Arrest Will Go On’
Salman Sima, an Iranian student and opposition supporter, says students were being taken from universities and that’s worrying, “because it could mean that waves of arrests will go on.”
Another activist, Pouyan Mahmudian, says that since the younger generation established itself as a driving force behind antigovernment protests in the Arab world, “the authorities in Iran have become increasingly wary of student movements in the country.”
“Students are the key part of Iran’s Green opposition movement, both in staging street protests and other actions as a [political] movement,” Mahmudian says. “The authorities are sensitive when it comes to the mood at universities, and they consider it a potential source of threats.”
Opposition websites reported that during the February 20 protests, security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters who were chanting “Death to the Dictator!”
But while Tehran’s police chief admitted deploying special forces in the capital, Iranian authorities overall maintain that the situation in the city was “peaceful.”
Authorities ‘Hijack’ The Protests
Whether the authorities have deliberately downplayed the scope of the protests is unclear. Student activists, however, have accused the authorities of “hijacking” the deaths of protesters for their own benefit.
According to activists, Nour-Mohammadi was killed by security forces as he was trying to escape their attacks. But Iran’s state-run media quoted the head of Shiraz University, Mohammad Moazeni, as saying Nour-Mohammadi died in a car accident and that he hadn’t taken part in the antigovernment rallies that day.
The atmosphere at Shiraz University reportedly remains tense since Nour-Mohammadi’s death. Student activists are not allowed to enter the university or its dormitories, and students and families have been told to remain silent on the subject of Nour-Mohammadi’s death.
Contrary accounts also followed the death of Sanee Zhaleh, an art student who was killed during the February 14 protests. Zhaleh’s friends and fellow students insisted he was a Green Movement supporter, but authorities claimed Zhaleh was a member of the Basij militia killed by antigovernment protesters.
Iranian youth have been at the center of recent protests in the country. Many students and young activists were among the 70 people killed in the mass unrest that followed the disputed reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
Mahmudian says that about 50 students, including some young women, were jailed before opposition protests began again this month. He says they are being held in harsh conditions.
“The rights stipulated for prisoners, by law, are even more restrictive for [political prisoners]. They are subjected to abuse as a way to put pressure on them,” Mahmudian says.
Opposition activists say many families of recently arrested students have no information about their children’s whereabouts.
According to Sima, two young women — Saeedeh Asgari and Farnaz Kamali — were among dozens of students from Tehran’s Azadi University taken to unknown locations by security forces earlier this week.